George Croonenberghs, 87; Fly Fisher Advised Redford on Movie

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

George Croonenberghs, 87, an advisor on the 1992 movie based on Norman Maclean’s novella “A River Runs Through It,” died Friday.

Croonenberghs, a retired railroad engineer, was crucial to helping director Robert Redford keep his promise to Maclean that the movie about his family, fly-fishing and the murder of his brother Paul would be accurate.

Croonenberghs, who was taught to tie flies by MacLean’s father, the Rev. John Maclean, could tie the same flies for the movie the Macleans had once used.

Tom Skerritt, who played the elder Maclean, could fly-fish. But Croonenberghs had to teach the art of fly-fishing to Brad Pitt, who played Paul, and Craig Scheffer, who played Norman.


Fishing was a lifelong passion for Croonenberghs, who carried his fly rod with him to school. He would occasionally fill a glass-bottomed basin with water, set his freshly tied flies on the water, then crawl underneath to get a fish-eye view of what his designs would look like to his intended prey.

He was still tying flies in the hours before he collapsed and died.